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This review is taken from PN Review 170, Volume 32 Number 6, July - August 2006.

MESSAGES FROM THE TIN MAN WILLIAM LOGAN , The Undiscovered Country: Poetry in the Age of Tin (Columbia University Press)

The Age of Tin? That must be grim news for today's poets: not only gold, silver and bronze, but even lead ranks higher. William Logan is a critic who has made a name for himself by savaging the leading lights of the poetry world in his reviews, collected here, so perhaps such a subtitle is to be expected. But if our poets have no hope, what sort of legacy does that leave their reviewers? Maybe that's why Logan is so easily wound up - because he sees himself as a Hazlitt without a Wordsworth worthy of his renunciation.

In this gathering together of his journalism and other short critical pieces from recent years, Logan is often left exposed by the fact that they were not originally intended to be read along-side each other. We see his favourite words and phrases repeated ('numinous', 'will-you nill-you') and we can spot the points at which he veers towards self-contradiction: a gossipy piece on Sylvia Plath, in which he tells us that she willed herself into an Electra complex, is followed not long after by the assertion in another essay that 'life is the extraneous and discardable medium for the writing of poems'. But reading these reviews in sequence can also be a delight; for example I enjoyed tracking how Logan's opinion of Geoffrey Hill altered between his reviews of Speech! Speech! and The Orchards of Syon.

Logan is at his best when he takes poets to task for ...


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